We weren’t allowed to visit until your last day when we crept into the hospital like disguised fugitives and were shown your shrunken form that we hardly recognised. Your heavy-lidded eyes barely flickered as we held your hand and spoke useless words of comfort, willing you to go, to no longer prolong your pain, willing you to stay so that we could take you home.
For weeks we had waited, watching your texts diminish, then the calls from the exhausted nurses reading from notes and emotionless scripts, rehearsed with other patients who had already passed. Then the last one suggesting we drop everything.
We stood above you in our layers of PPE and scrubs, like clinical aliens watching you try to breathe your last, performing our eleventh-hour duty, squirming like children desperate to go out and play, to be anywhere but there facing the reality.
One of us must have carried the virus over the threshold, carried it unseen like an innocent drug mule and smeared it on a shared surface. The one who took home the shopping? The one who took their children to the play-park? Took the bins out? It no longer matters.
We wanted to take you home. We could have borne you on the sledge, like a snow queen
one last ski run, one last snowball fight. With anything else it might have been possible. One last goodnight.
We trudged through the snow in silence until he suggested we went to the park. We lay in the soft powdery snow and I imagined you with us, like when we were children, making snow angels and everywhere the ice-crusted fringes of tree tops, the glint of winter sun, the dazzling light. “If you had to go” I spoke aloud, “I hoped you would die this way”.
(c) Steve Goodlad